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Countries with the Most Desert

Can you name the countries of the world that have the most desert or tundra area as classified by the Köppen climate classification?
Quiz idea: nichster
Deserts are areas with low precipitation. They don't have to be hot or have sand.
Based on this map. Not including external territories such as Greenland.
Quiz by Quizmaster
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Last updated: June 17, 2019
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First submittedOctober 24, 2016
Times taken97,620
Average score76.2%
Rating4.92
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sq. km
country
2,500,000
Australia
2,100,000
Algeria
2,100,000
Saudi Arabia
2,000,000
Canada
2,000,000
China
1,900,000
Russia
1,600,000
Libya
sq. km
country
1,500,000
Sudan
1,000,000
Mauritania
900,000
Egypt
800,000
Chad
750,000
Mali
750,000
Niger
500,000
Namibia
sq. km
country
500,000
United States
500,000
Yemen
450,000
Pakistan
450,000
Somalia
400,000
Argentina
400,000
Iran
400,000
Mongolia
77 Comments
+7
Level ∞
Oct 24, 2016
First of all, nichster made a similar quiz so check it out.
+8
Level ∞
Oct 24, 2016
My methodology was to look at the Köppen climate map, and then estimate the % of the country that was covered by desert or tundra. I think that the list of countries is correct, but the exact values may be inaccurate. I have the most uncertainty about the United States and Canada.
+3
Level 77
Oct 24, 2016
Ice is not desert or tundra? What about Denmark (with Greenland)?
+3
Level ∞
Oct 24, 2016
Added a caveat
+3
Level 55
Oct 27, 2016
I used a similar method and I estimated the amount that was covered by 'Warm desert climate'.
+1
Level 25
Oct 30, 2016
First time I've ever heard that Greenland is a desert. And now I learned that Antarctica is a desert as well. Would've never known if I had not taken this quiz.
+2
Level 55
Oct 30, 2016
I didn't count tundra as desert though.
+5
Level 71
Oct 31, 2017
Mexico seems to have quite a lot of desert too. Have you taken polar distortion into consideration when estimating tundra coverage?
+3
Level 37
Apr 30, 2020
Kazakhstan has over double the amount of desert as Australia.
+12
Level 66
Oct 25, 2021
The area of the entire nation of Kazakhstan is 2,724,900 sq km. According to this quiz, Australia has 2,500,000 sq km of desert, so Kazakhstan can't have more than twice as much.
+17
Level 75
Oct 25, 2021
Brentford do suck though.
+2
Level 82
Oct 24, 2016
Interesting quiz. I've only recently come to appreciate that Australia isn't nearly as dry as I'd always imagined. I've always had the notion that if I were to drive about five hours west from Brisbane it would be nothing, but desert all the way to the Indian Ocean, but a lot of it is actually only semi-arid. Still, almost a third of the continent, according to these figures, is desert, so that's not insubstantial.
+11
Level 65
Dec 22, 2016
In Australia, we (Australians) have the least fertile soil in the world. (Thanks a lot, minimal glaciation.) Consequently, the conditions are already pretty tough for plant life, and if they're also facing low rainfall then the effect is amplified, and few plant species can survive. Deserts are defined (primarily, usually) by low rainfall, but they are identified aesthetically by the absence of vegetation; as such, there is a larger part of Australia that 'feels like' desert - anything with sufficiently low rainfall to wipe out most plant life - than the part that is actually desert.
+2
Level 67
May 15, 2017
Even areas which are semi-arid go through prolonged periods of little or not enough rain. At the moment 70% of Queensland is still officially declared drought stricken and El Nino coupled with climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of droughts. As the population grows, the management of water resources is going to be a major problem.
+2
Level 62
Oct 27, 2016
Woo, 100%. Actually thought I wouldn't get it.
+3
Level 61
Dec 22, 2016
Only missed Somalia :/
+27
Level 69
Dec 22, 2016
Mmmmhhh... Countries with the most desserts...
+9
Level 49
Dec 22, 2016
Now that's a quiz I can get behind.
+7
Level 86
Jul 18, 2018
I smell a sequel!
+6
Level 55
Dec 18, 2018
Sounds tasty.
+1
Level 32
May 1, 2023
I can see the title "Dumbest dessert names around the globe"
+10
Level 44
Dec 22, 2016
Could I recommend that someone make a similar quiz but instead of measuring the square kilometers, you would measure the percentage of the country that is taken up by desert. That would be a very interesting quiz. I would make it, but I would have no idea how to go about it! ;) I would be very interested to see how high the United Arab Emirates ranks.
+2
Level 74
Dec 23, 2016
djibouti would be the highest on the list, I would imagine. ;)
+7
Level 71
Dec 22, 2016
Funny that México didn't make it.
+1
Level 46
Dec 22, 2016
Noooooo i got everything but i missed China
+14
Level 79
Dec 2, 2019
So you didn't get everything then?
+1
Level 41
Dec 22, 2016
I feel really stupid. I entered in Chile, but not Argentina!
+1
Level 69
Dec 23, 2016
Canada? Where? Up North? Nunavut? I always had the impression that Canada was a wet country.
+7
Level 63
Jan 13, 2017
There's a big part of Canada right next to Greenland with probably the most tundra after Antarctica and Greenland itself.
+7
Level 78
Dec 2, 2019
Discrimination against Greenland!
+1
Level 73
Dec 2, 2019
generally speaking it is, lots of lakes and such. but it's a big country, so there's room for different climates.
+1
Level 61
Jan 8, 2020
Nah it's just about the tundra which counts as desert in this quiz.
+2
Level 74
Dec 23, 2016
one of the only two i missed the first time was the us, which apparently 93% of people somehow got right. shows how desperate people can be.
+15
Level 63
Jan 13, 2017
How does it show how desperate people can be? I doubt USA is a wild guess. Ever heard of the Mojave desert with places like Death Valley?
+2
Level 83
Feb 12, 2018
Presumably the US figures also incorporate bits of Alaska. (I may be wrong.)
+4
Level 71
Sep 19, 2019
I think people know there is desert in the usa though I dont hink it is the first thing they think about. I think it actually might be more likely they first just typed in the big countries, as many do with quizzes of the "country with the most........" format.
+2
Level 48
May 14, 2017
Yeah, spending 40 years of my life in those U.S. deserts I was not likely to overlook them.
+4
Level 74
Dec 23, 2016
Im also wondering, why is yemen here but oman isnt? google maps shows that more of oman is yellowish than yemen, and theyre about the same size.
+3
Level 56
Feb 16, 2022
Oman is approximately 309,500 sq km, whereas Yemen is 527,968 sq km which is about 71% larger than Oman. Praise the power of Google!
+2
Level 65
May 14, 2017
Literally with one second left I panicked and typed in Namibia and was surprised to get it right.
+2
Level 6
May 15, 2017
Missed Canada and USA :/
+4
Level 35
Jan 16, 2018
Forgot Canada, I was thinking sand and heat and general sweating, sun-burning misery lol
+2
Level 67
Feb 6, 2018
Am I the only one surprised that India isn't on this?
+1
Level 86
Jul 18, 2018
I was a little, but then I looked at the source map.
+1
Level 86
Jul 18, 2018
Took me waaaaaaaaay too long to come up with the first answer.
+1
Level 40
Nov 8, 2019
missed namibia and mongolia
+2
Level 70
Dec 2, 2019
I'm surprised Iraq / Afghanistan / Kazakhstan are not on the list.
+2
Level 71
Oct 25, 2021
Afghanistan is mostly mountain. Iraq is too small (only ~438,000 sq km), so it would have to be vast majority desert to make the list. For comparison, Iran is much larger and only barely makes the list.

As for Kazakhstan, that surprised me too. My best guess is that most of the country is semi-arid, which isn't the exact same as desert.

+1
Level 48
May 1, 2023
Most of the country, yes. But not all of it. It has 2,7 million kilometres. If 15 % is desert, it makes it. Which I am convinced, it is...
+1
Level 39
Dec 2, 2019
This was an interesting one. Got 20/21 - darn Yemen!
+1
Level 50
Dec 3, 2019
Canada has a desert in it!!!!!!!!!???????????????????
+7
Level ∞
Dec 3, 2019
Most of the polar regions of the world are deserts.
+1
Level 28
Dec 4, 2019
Doesn't Denmark own Greenland
+7
Level 66
Dec 4, 2019
Usually excluding Greenland makes sense because of its semi-independent political status, but on quizzes focused solely on physical geography, it leads to aberrant results. Greenland clearly exists, and would likely make this list whether it is treated as part of Denmark or something else; the current approach erases it from the map, which makes no sense.
+1
Level 81
Oct 6, 2021
Yes, in this way it is largely ignored because of its political status, even in a geography quiz.
+1
Level 64
Oct 25, 2021
Scotland has a semi-independent political status but I have never seen it excluded from quizzes.
+2
Level 82
Oct 25, 2021
Scotland is an integral part of a sovereign state, despite some devolution of power. And the amount of devolution in Scotland at most only gives it as much autonomy as US or Australian states, so I certainly wouldn't call it 'semi-independent'. Greenland is part of the Danish Realm, but not a part of the Kingdom of Denmark itself. Nor is it a sovereign nation state, so it exists in a grey area.
+1
Level 63
Aug 18, 2020
I never knew Canada had desert
+1
Level 57
Oct 25, 2021
Large masses of ice/tundra counts as a desert.
+1
Level 72
Oct 25, 2021
Go on, ‘fess up, who else read ‘dessert’ at first glance? And I’m supposed to be smart. Perhaps not so much!
+1
Level 59
Oct 25, 2021
Total botch. Should be removed.
+1
Level 57
Oct 26, 2021
How so? Pretty sure everything here is correct.
+3
Level 65
Oct 25, 2021
For those asking, a desert is only defined as a place with very little precipitation. It doesn't matter whether there is sand and whether it is hot
+1
Level 68
Feb 9, 2022
Just missed Namibia
+1
Level 24
Aug 15, 2022
cant believe I missed Saudi and Yemen , what was I even thinking lol
+2
Level 69
Mar 20, 2023
Turkmenistan? Uzbekistan? Bolivia? KAZAKHSTAN??????
+1
Level 56
May 1, 2023
Yes those are countries, what is the question exactly??
+2
Level 48
May 1, 2023
Bolivia does not have much desert and is pretty small. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are mostly desert (some 60-80 %), but not entirely and they are so small, that their total size would need to be covered in desert to make it to the list.

Kazakhstan seems as a mistake to me. Even if it had around 20 % of desert teritory (most of the country is definitely NOT a desert), it would still be around 550k kilometres, given its enormous size.

+1
Level 47
May 2, 2023
Bolivia is not that small!! It is bigger than countries like Mali, Mauritania, Pakistan, South Africa and Angola
+1
Level 43
May 1, 2023
canada ???
+1
Level 48
May 1, 2023
I was surprised by the absence of Botswana, Morocco, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iraq and Oman. Until I realized, how small those countries actually are compared to the other ones.

I am still convinced, that Kazahstan and Mexico should make it into the bottom of the quiz though, given their total size and the map provided as source. Do you mind doing a recount for these two countries, Quizmaster?

+2
Level 28
May 1, 2023
*POV* you are looking in the chat for the answers and then acting smart
+1
Level 93
May 1, 2023
Guess I have to spend more time in Mongolia. For some reason, I thought it had a great deal more desert than it apparently does and so would be ranked above places like Yemen and Somalia which have only about 40% of Mongolia's area.
+1
Level 61
May 2, 2023
How are Mexico and Kazakhstan not on here?
+1
Level 43
Jun 2, 2023
Mexico is not a desert of tacos and somberos and maracas with mustache.

And kazakhstan its just magic.

+1
Level 33
Mar 31, 2024
100% GG
+1
Level 44
May 8, 2024
19/21,, forgot egypt and niger but i knew everything else :3